No Soriano, Joba means bullpen help a must for Yanks

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Now without both Joe Girardi’s designated seventh- and eighth-inning guys, the Yankees are going to be scrambling for setup help over the next two months.

The news today that Joba Chamberlain would likely need Tommy John surgery, coming on the heels of Rafael Soriano getting shut down for at least a month, leaves the Yankees without much of a bridge to Mariano Rivera the moment.

They can take heart that David Robertson has stepped up in a big way so far.  After showing plenty of potential in fanning 63 batters in just 43 2/3 innings in 2009, Robertson took a step backwards last year.  His ERA was an adequate 3.82, but he walked more than a batter every other inning and finished with a 1.50 WHIP.

This year, the walks have been even more abundant, with 18 in 23 1/3 innings.  However, he’s also fanned 38, posted a 1.16 ERA and stranded 19 of 25 inherited runners.

Unfortunately, Robertson is the only setup-type reliever the Yankees have left.  Boone Logan has decent numbers, but he’s failing as a lefty specialist (left-handers are hitting .316 off him).  Journeyman Luis Ayala has also been solid, but there’s no telling how long that it will last and he’s usually been quite vulnerable to left-handed hitters.

Help from the minors is a possibility.  Kevin Whelan has always had talent, and it looks like his control might finally be decent enough to allow him to help.  He has a 30/6 K/BB ratio and a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer this season.

There’s one route the Bombers don’t want to go, but it may be worth a try anyway: top prospect Manny Banuelos showed potentially dominant stuff in one- and two-inning appearances this spring.  The 20-year-old lefty currently has a 2.84 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Trenton. Right-hander Dellin Betances would be another intriguing candidate to make a switch.  He has a 1.99 ERA in nine starts for Trenton.

The Yankees, though, aren’t going to turn to either now and might still not want to even when August rolls around.  Expect them to start going shopping at some point. Heath Bell would be very costly — the Padres would likely ask for either Banuelos or Betances in a deal — but the Yankees will inquire about both him and Mike Adams.  The A’s will have Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Michael Wuertz to deal if they fall completely out of the AL West race, and the Twins will likely listen on Mike Capps, though he’s not an ideal fit in Yankee Stadium.

Who knows? Maybe they could even bring in Kerry Wood for the second year in a row.  If Wood would waive his no-trade clause to play anywhere other than Chicago, a return to New York would make sense.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.